Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Back in Oz and just about over the tiredness and jetlag from the trip back.

The federal pollies are back scraping the bottom of the barrel, especially the opposition. We have the so-obvious ploy of  Tony Abbott going on a 'positive' offensive - and in case we're in any doubt he's using the word 'positive' over and over again in his speeches.

He would normally be leading the personal attacks on Julia Gillard but he's using Julie Bishop as his attack dog in much the same way that John Winston Howard used him, Abbott, as his attack dog. Abbott is just sitting there trying to look innocent.

For the last two days they've used Question Time to do nothing but attack the PM. Forget the country, forget questioning government policy, decisions or performance which affect the country and us. Every question relates to their latest attack theme, her time as a lawyer two decades ago.

Bishop has even accused Gillard of criminal behaviour, an accusation she rapidly backed away from.

In NSW we have former ministers and senior party men embroiled in all sorts of dodgy, even illegal, money making schemes. The current government, like previous governments, looking after their mates and themselves rather than the state and us.

So nothing changes on the political front, at federal and state level.

On the TV news yesterday a big thing was made of the fact that analogue TV had been switched off, replaced by digital. They were almost hyperventilating with excitement, telling us the new age would give us 'better pictures, better, sound and more channels'.

It's all bullshit of course. What it demonstrated was that the thing that actually matters, content, wasn't in anyone's thinking. Thought is only going into the hardwatre, none into software.

Whether it's in analogue or digital, black or white, plasma screen, 3D...the problem is that content is crap.

The fact is that digital will simply give us better pictures and better sound of crap.

More channels simply means that crap will be even more readily available, the same programmes repeated on channel after channel.

There just isn't enough content - of any standard, let alone of any quality - to fill the channels we already have.

We have repeats of crap from decades ago. Even old black and white sitcoms are being rerun over and over again.

They pump out British things that were mildly amusing on occasion when they were made.  On The Buses for example, which finished its original airing forty years ago. And  Mind Your Language, its original run ending thirty years ago.

It's depressing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Flammable cladding

Following the tower block fire I posted about yesterday there's a lot of talk about the need for fire rated materials to be used in cladding.

You can see why from the photo I took this morning:

The fancy structure on top of the building was the same as its twin on the right but most of it ignited, obviously making the fire much worse than it should have been.

It was the flaming debris from this structure which fell to the ground, causing eleven vehicles to burst into flames.

Apparently the need for a new code of practice was already under discussion but I'd say this example makes urgent implementation a must.

Now I must start getting organised for the flight back to Oz. I'll be there tomorrow.

Towering inferno

Every tower block resident's nightmare, a fire during the night. 

It happened yesterday in Dubai, in the development next to ours, about 2 kilometres away, in a 34 storey tower.

Photos from

The fire began at 2am, with everone sleeping at that time of course, but the fire alarms activated and thankfully all six hundred residents got out with no casualties reported. Adjacent towers were evacuated as a precaution.

The fire brigade were on the scene within four minutes apparently, with fifteen fire fighting teams plus police and extra water tankers.  It took them six hours to extinguish the fire. Firefighters searched every apartment to make sure no-one was inside.

It could have been so much worse - the apartments on the top three floors were destroyed, eleven vehicles parked at the bottom of the building were destroyed by fire after burning debris fell onto them. And of course, there's extensive damage to the facade.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cardinal Pell true to form

In disgust at Cardinal Pell's appalling 'we are the victims' statements I was planning to write a follow-up to my  uncovering the cover up  post on institutional child abuse.

But Mike Carlton has said so much better than I could exactly what I would have tried to say.

Here it is, from this morning's Sydney Morning Herald:

Grave of mien, choosing each word with studied care, every inch a prince of Rome, Cardinal George Pell defied the accusers.

The sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests had been exaggerated, he told a news conference in Sydney on Tuesday. There was a "press campaign" against the church, with "general smears that we are covering up and moving people around''.

"We object to being described as the only cab on the rank … because there is a persistent press campaign focused largely on us, that does not mean we are largely the principal culprits.''

With those few sentences, Australia's most senior Catholic churchman flung aside any lingering shred of moral authority attached either to his person or his office as the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney. There were one or two perfunctory remarks about "shame" delivered in that familiar treacly baritone, but that was it. Strip away the apostolic airs and he could have been a flack for James Hardie assuring the world that the dangers of the company's asbestos products had been rather overblown.

It was monstrous. It was despicable. To portray the church as a victim in this filthy business was an Orwellian reversal of the polarity of right and wrong, truth and fiction. With self-serving hypocrisy, Pell delivered yet another slap in the face to those hundreds if not thousands of children, and their families, who suffered abuse. For the rest of us, it was an insult to the intelligence.

Nobody is suggesting the Catholic church is the only cab on the rank. In Australia and worldwide, this epidemic of child abuse has extended across the Christian denominations and into schools, state institutions, the Boy Scouts, and sports clubs and teams. In my extended family, I know of a young boy in country NSW abused by an Anglican rector. The brute was quietly moved on when his crimes were discovered. Just this week in Britain, a retired Bishop of Gloucester in the Church of England was arrested on suspicion of sexual offences committed against eight boys as young as 12.

But the truly sickening thing about the Catholic church was the sinister cover-up, which ran for decades and which, for all we know, might still be happening. The statistics are there, and they are shocking. At a parliamentary inquiry in Melbourne last month, a deputy commissioner of the Victoria Police, Graham Ashton, revealed that since 1956 there had been 2110 sexual offences against 519 child victims in that state alone, about 70 per cent of them committed by Catholic priests, brothers or teachers. Not one of those crimes had ever been reported to the police by the church, he said. Not one.

Like the Bourbons, Pell has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. For him, the primacy of the church is all. His pastoral failure is absolute.

He seems to suggest that 'we're not the only ones doing it' is an acceptable defence.

I've never liked the man, I've never thought he was the right man for the job and I'd be delighted to see him go. He certainly should now, if not for the cover-ups during his watch then for these appalling pronouncements.

Mike Carlton in SMH

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lazy cop syndrome

The other day Professor Geoffrey Alpert, a US expert on the use of force by police, appeared before the Coroner's inquiry into the death of Roberto Curti. He calls  heavy reliance on tasers by police 'lazy cop syndrome.'

I posted about this a couple of weeks ago.    I said then that using the Taser on average three times a day showed that police used the weapon much too readily, and it had obviously replaced negotiation, conversation, reasoning.

Prof Alpert said: "In looking at thousands of uses of force, we found that police officers were turning too early to using the taser and too often used the taser. It turns out it's a weapon of convenience as opposed to a weapon that is necessary."

The Coroner's findings in the Curti inquest are now in, and what a damning summing up it was. Not only of the officers involved but also of police procedures. And of the inevitable cover up by those involved.
 NSW Coroner Mary Jerram said the pack of officers who chased Curti acted like  "schoolboys in Lord of the Flies", "a number of the officers were ... reckless, careless, dangerous and excessively forceful". "(Their actions) were an abuse of police powers, in some instances even thuggish."

Coroner Jerram said many officers had lied to the inquest and "conveniently forgotten" evidence. She said the most senior officer present, Inspector Gregory Cooper, gave evidence that was so conflicting and self-serving it "hardly deserves narration".

It all sounds so familiar doesn't it.

She recommended that five officers be disciplined and the actions of police during the pursuit and restraint be referred to the Police Integrity Commission.

As for what are obviously chaotic police procedures, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that she  called for "an immediate review of the vague and confusing standard operating procedures relating to the use of capsicum spray, Tasers, handcuffs, restraint and positional asphyxia, particularly the use of multiple Taser shots and its "drive stun mode" as a pain compliance tool."

The Police Commisioner made all the right noises after the findings, but it's all happened before and much the same things were said. Nothing has changed.

Sydney Morning Herald report.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Uncovering the cover up

Many years overdue but at last there's to be be a Royal Commission into child abuse within various institutions.

Even better, it will investigate the way complaints have been handled - read, covered up - by those institutions.

To my mind the cover ups have been at least as bad as the abuse.

Kept in-house, no action taken against the perpetrators, who were simply moved somewhere else. And all too often carried on with their criminal activities.

And there's no doubt in my mind that very, very senior people were involved in the cover ups.

Regardless of their position, anyone found to have concealed criminal activity must be
charged accordingly. Moving a perpetrator who subsequently abused more children should mean the superior who moved him is charged with aiding and abetting.

I've never been able to get my head around why victims or their families lodge their complaints to the very institution responsible for the abuse.

A priest is the he's reported to someone else in the same church. The abuser is a scoutmaster, so the complain is made to the scout movement.

Makes no sense at all to me. If the complaints had been made to the police, as they should have been, maybe it would all have been dealt with decades ago and many children spared the trauma of abuse.

The terms of reference for the Royal Commission are still being worked out but the Prime Minister said it would investigate the abuse by a wide range of institutions as well as the manner in which they've dealt with complaints. She also said she expected the investigation would go back several decades.

I sincerely hope there are jail terms looming and although I'm not holding my breath I trust that position and status won't spare anyone found guilty.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thursday, November 08, 2012


A sign I came across this morning. Fish 'n' chips, if I'm reading the sign correctly, is not British but an authentic Emirati dish.

Back in Dubai

The usual very tiring flight to Dubai from Sydney, arrived at 6am and and I'm struggling.

Emirates has a choice of one-stop flights (Bangkok for example) or non-stop. I used to prefer the stopper because at least you get off the aircraft, stretch your legs, break the monotony. The downside is the extra time added to the journey.

The last few trips I've changed to preferring to get it over with as soon as possible so it's now the non-stop flights each way. A 777 one way, A380 the other.

Coming from Oz it's obviously uphill and takes a bit longer, fourteen and a half hours is flight time. It wasn't a bad flight, a bit bumpy the first three hours or so but then smooth for most of the rest of the way. Just the odd few minutes of bumping over potholes two or three times.

Once again the magic e-gate system refused to recognise my fingerprint. I got a new card a few months back and was told I didn't need to re-scan my fingerprint because it was all already in the computer. But the last three or four times it's refused to recognise me so I might try to find time to go back to the e-gate office and ask whether they should redo it.

Weather's just about perfect now. Low humidity, very little wind, low thirties celcius and of course non-stop sunshine.

After no rain for many weeks back on the Central Coast, and a very unhappy looking garden, the forecast is for some on Thursday and Friday, including thunderstorms. Nothing major - about 20mm they're saying - but that would equal waht we've had the whole of spring so far.